authority, broken people, compassion, discernment, hatred, healing, hypocrisy, Jesus Christ, mercy, offense

A Crooked Back, #74

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

Luke 13:12-13, (context, vv. 10-17)

Doctors call it spondylitis ankylopoetica, which produces the fusion of the spinal bones. Sometimes physical issues have spiritual reasons, and many times crippling diseases leave their marks on our hearts. They damage us inside.

Eighteen years is an awful long time.

The response to this astounding miracle was less then ideal. Quite often “religion” responds out of foolishness, and anger at what God wants to do:

“But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

(verse 14)

Jesus is angry. He rebukes the hypocrisy of the synagogues leaders. Their livestock get better treatment.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

    C.S. Lewis

“As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

(verse 17)

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

    James H. Aughey

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compassion, decision, disciples, follow Him, Gospel, hypocrisy, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, mercy, parable, Samaritan, temple, work

The Parable of the Good Mormon, #72

“”But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”

Luke 10:33-34

As I write this, I’m waiting for my plane in Salt Lake City, Utah. I just passed by the Mormon Temple, and that’s always disturbing to me. I guess as a teacher to the body of Christ, to see this much deception concentrated in a place like this is evil. The LDS church has a staggering 16.5 million scattered worldwide. And it’s growing fast.

Back in 1982, two Mormon security guards ushered me off of the temple grounds. But as I was escorted off their temple mount, Christian believers outside the gate gave me tracts to read, and they were praying that I would find the Lord Jesus. Their ministry is hard, but effective,

It’s strange how things work out sometimes.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was treacherous, well-known by the people as a haven for robbers and muggers. Think the south-side of Chicago; it was dangerous, and typically when you did have to make the trip, you traveled in a group for safety.

Samaritans were the unholy and the godless. Jews never dreamed of fellowshipping with them–both regarded each other with contempt and scorn. To the Jew, the Samaritan was apostate, and there was a deep distaste for them. And the worse part of it all, they believed that God agreed.

They did respect each others turf though, at least, to a limited degree. At best, they simply didn’t acknowledge the others existence–at worst, they did the jihad thing, and went to outright war with each other. It’s all very complicated. It almost always is.

We must modernize this parable in order to really understand its implications. Let’s make sure we understand a few things though:

  • The Jews and the Samaritan detested each other. Each declared that they were the true nation of Israel.
  • The priest and the Levite both had religious reasons for avoiding situations like this. They quite easily justified themselves, as their interpretation of the Law forbid them from touching a corpse.
  • The Samaritan was doing the will of God, the religious leaders were not. Plain and simple. Jesus’ parable has ruined our conceptions forever of a religion that costs us nothing, and somehow gives us everything.
  • Jesus schools the Jewish leaders with the responsibility of loving each other–no matter what the other person believes is true.

This is a present day parable. It’s lost none of its zing-and we can’t rationalize away any of its authority. It speaks to us today, as powerfully as when Jesus first spoke it. This particular passage has never lost its punch, and we dare not minimize the message. If we do, typically, it’s for carnal reasons, and we do so, it’s at extreme peril to our very souls.

Who is your neighbor? We needn’t look far for understanding–each parable that Jesus spoke was simple, and it could be understood by a child–and yet it carried the full authority, and weight of heaven. If we minimize it, we risk our discipleship. We’ll suddenly cease to be real and authentic.

Is this a Sunday school flannelgraph, or is it a real truth for real believers?

I easily could go on, and on, ad nauseam–pummeling you with insignificant details, but I won’t. The critical message is one of an active, aggressive love for each one who is made in God’s image–for the Catholic and the Mormon, the black and the white, gay and straight, republican or democrat, the homeless and the mansion-dweller–everyone who the Lord God has created. Everyone. (Even illegal aliens–egads. Not them!)

No exceptions can be made. When we serve others–sacrificially, if we have to–we’re really serving the Lord Jesus. And if a Mormon happens along, and if they do what the Samaritan did, they’re doing the will of God. And that disturbs us, and it should.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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authority, compassion, crowds, discernment, fear, forgiveness, Gospel, mercy, sin, Word of God,

The Very First Stone, #63

“He stood up and said to them, 

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7 (context vv. 3-10)

The religious police had caught them together, and they held her (just her?) for the express purpose of embarrassing Jesus. Ideally, on the holy grounds of the temple they could challenge him about the Law, and when Jesus tried and failed, they could then humiliate him to the crowds. He would lose a lot in the credibility department (or so they thought.)

“They set a trap for Jesus. If Jesus said, “Let her go,” then He would seem to break the Law of Moses. If He said, “Execute her for the crime of adultery,” then Jesus would seem harsh and perhaps cruel. Also, He would break Roman law, because the Romans had taken the right of official execution for religious offenses away from the Jews.”

-David Guzak

Adultery is expressly prohibited by the seventh of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) which says simply: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” There is no ambiguity to this. God had made it clear that adultery was wrong, and she was guilty. (The man she was involved with wasn’t charged–which is a bit interesting.)

Jesus, being sinless, was the only one capable of judgement. Having complete authority he had perfect right to carry out God’s verdict. But he didn’t. He wouldn’t. I suppose that’s why this passage is so evocative to many.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

John 8:11

All of her accusers had quickly left. Jesus simply wrote something in the sand, and whatever it was, it did the trick. There was no other thing that would of caused them to leave so quietly, and abruptly. They suddenly refused to enforce the penalty of the Law, and just skedaddled.

The adultery was still an issue though, it wasn’t overlooked. Jesus spoke directly to her about it, she wasn’t off the hook yet. “From now on sin no more” is after all a command, and that relationship with her lover must be forsaken. Jesus was serious. What she would choose to do from this point on was critical.

Jesus insists that she understand the why behind them departing so quickly. I think it’s important for her quite specifically, she knew that not only was she forgiven, but that now she could live without guilt or condemnation. The condemners were gone. She was free. Absolutely free.

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

Billy Graham

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Five K Plus, Entry #42

 But Jesus said, 

“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 

17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 

Matthew 14:16-17, (context, vv. 14-21)

The people are hungry. The disciples are worried. A very large number had come to listen to Jesus speak/heal. Earlier that day (in verse 14,) He responds and heals all that were sick, ministering to everyone out of deep, deep compassion (also found in verse 14.)

The crowds wanted to see some healings, (which was pretty much their ‘entertainment,’ breaking up a fairly dull existence,) And perhaps some of them scoured the streets to find the really hard cases–just to see if Jesus could pull it off. (“Let’s get ‘Joshua,’ he’s blind, and crippled and a leper besides–he’ll be a real challenge!”)

The dusty day was done (v.15.) The surroundings were “desolate,” and the crowds were getting antsy. But the merchants were happy, they’d sellout and make a bundle! And the disciples–well they were concerned about the crowd dispersing. They hoped that Jesus would dismiss everyone before it got too dark. (Apparently, not only did they forget to bring food, but they left their flashlights at home.)

It’s interesting to note that Jesus seems to look for new ways to teach His disciples. (They need to learn the Kingdom.) Jesus wants them to become involved in this particular miracle. They would distribute the food, and perhaps mingle a bit. (No sidelining for you, Thaddeus.)

And could it be this is how He operates with all of His disciples? Could it be our response all these crazy-life thingees we have to deal with are revealing to us–and to everyone–how deep, and wide, and far our discipleship really does go?

Jesus throws out a challenge, but in order to make this happen, the disciples had to shake down a kid, and take away the lunch mom had packed. All this for two fish, and five loaves of bread. Apparently no one else thought to bring bring any food. Perhaps no one expected it to be a long day, and packing a dinner basket around was a hassle. Who knows?

Five loaves, two fishes.

The official count was 5000, plus the women and children. I imagine that the disciples were a little confused. Maybe intimidated too. Perhaps there was an effort among them to discourage Jesus from keeping the crowd hanging around? “Surely Jesus wasn’t serious, He just needed to understand these things.”

The disciples think taking away the boy’s dinner was completely idiotic in the light of the situation. Then maybe Jesus would then understand all this silliness, and make an announcement that the day was done. The crowd was milling around, perhaps ‘catching up’ with friends and distant relatives–the kids were playing tag nicely for a change. And maybe they stuck around to see if Jesus would heal (or teach) again. They certainly didn’t want to miss the show.

The disciples had already seen a ton of miracles. They had heard tremendous teachings. (Those parables were mystifying though.) But everything about Jesus as the real Messiah seemed to click (at times.) And I do think they understood–at least to a degree. And yet Jesus is stretching His disciples even further into this whole idea of discipleship.

I think Jesus wanted them to learn about the two tools they should use:

  • One–for each one to understand God’s amazing love for people.
  • Two–for them to grasp God’s almighty power in every situation they will face..

The disciples must learn to use these. In order to pull off this idea of making disciples throughout the big blue earth–they’ll definitely need lots and lots of compassion, and a really strong confidence in God’s power. After all they merely had to break through every bit of darkness they came across; and carry in the light. Just like Jesus! Easy, right? (“Holy Spirit, we need all the strength you can spare.”)

The twelve really have to become aware, and snatch up these two–they’re not trivial. They seem to be the very steady heartbeat of discipleship. Understanding these two principles causes the deep nature of the Kingdom to enter these hard human hearts. (Some of us need a ‘transplant.’) We have to apply His compassion again, like a bandage on the wounds. We need to wield His power once more, cutting away the lies.

Both dear one–are really, really needed right now.

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”

-Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China for 51 years

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broken people, contamination, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, mercy, parable, Pharisee

Forgiveness Finds a Place at Simon’s Table, Entry #36

“And Jesus answering said to him, 

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” 

And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

Luke 7:40, (context, 36-40)

This has to be one of my favorite passages of scripture. Simon, who is a Pharisee, has invited Jesus for dinner. I suppose he intends to impress Him, or at the very least he wants to Jesus to look more favorably on his religious sect. It’s simple PR work for him. (Maybe even tax deductible?)

But in comes this woman, and she spoils everything. The ESV translation describes her as a “sinner” and a “woman of the city,” (whatever that means?) She bursts into the dining room wielding an alabaster flask of ointment. She kneels and weeps, and uses the locks of her hair to rub the perfume on the dirty feet of Jesus.

She is crying, and I have to believe she’s very aware of her sin–nobody has to tell her that she has wasted her life. Simon, on the other hand, finds her behavior with Jesus quite objectionable. He’s obviously disturbed by her presence, and he only can only see her outside actions, his vision never really extends to see her broken heart.

And yet Jesus is quite aware of the tension that’s now developing. He’s spiritually sensitive to all that’s swirling around Him, and we see Him jumping at the chance to teach Simon (the Pharisee) a lesson on true forgiveness.

It seems that a certain moneylender had two men that owed him money. One was indebted with just a modest sum; the other was bound by a huge debt. It seems that both men couldn’t repay what they had borrowed. So inexplicably, the lender cancelled the debt of both of them, the little and the big. These men were now free. They owed nothing–not a red cent.

OK now. Who will “love him more?”

Jesus compares the responses of these ‘ex-debtors’ and takes it to a very logical conclusion. “Who will love him more?” Simon obviously understands this line of reasoning, and we hear him responding correctly to Jesus’ lesson on mercy and grace.

Simon realizes there are those out there who are terrible sinners, they are wicked and have walked in sin and darkness for a very long time. They’re irrevocably stained by their sin, it has shaped them to the point that their personalities have been altered. Sadly, they know all of this, and it breaks their heart in two. They tell no one, but God knows.

The schooling Simon receives is the Kingdom logic that corrects his definition of God’s mercy. The kindness that God bestows on us is proportional, those who “owe” much are forgiven much. And as a result they love much.

When you see a person weeping at the altar, overcome by their sense of sin and they seem terribly broken, you’ll understand the love they now have for Jesus. A tremendous debt has been forgiven, and they get up and walk away as free men and women. They now finally understand how to love. They have been forgiven.

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”

― John Stott

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Laborers Wanted, # 27

Then he said to his disciples, 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38, (context, vv. 35-38)

The issue here is laborers–this is our work, plain and simple. The fact is that there isn’t enough workers. It’s funny, it seems God is constrained by our prayers–earnest prayers for a harvest to be brought into the barns. But there aren’t enough hands. The harvest will be ruined if help doesn’t come soon.

God must have our help if it’s going to get done.

The harvest seems contingent on our prayer life. We decide what is going to happen. Prayer is the work of the authentic believer and our hearts must be for the fields. We are the people who work, who sweat, and get tired. That is our call. That is the true work of discipleship.

Mother Teresa once commented that what we see in front of us is our “Calcutta.” We have got to open our eyes and look, we must see the incredible needs of desperate people that surround us. We must have eternal eyes–God’s eyes. We do our work on behalf of others. I really do believe that it will be ‘sweaty’ prayers that will move the hand of God.

I think ‘prayer’ is the real work in evangelism.

Prayer is our effort that gets combined with the Holy Spirit’s great passion of lost souls. Our “earnest” prayer for the harvest will call workers to the fields. Every generation is responsible for their own part of the field.

For some reason God has chosen to limit Himself by our decision to pray. He patiently waits for us to intercede. Everything seems contingent on us, we can point no finger at God, or accuse Him of ignoring the work that must be done. We must make the decision. Evangelism, and missions, is God’s intense passion. He now shares with us this responsibility.

All of Heaven is standing on its tiptoes, waiting to hear our pleas for the lost.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

-St. Augustine

 

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Show Me the Mercy, Entry #24

“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 

‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’

you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:6-8 (context, vv. 1-8)

Do we honestly want to see mercy? To give it is much harder than making a sacrifice. Mercy often entails forgiving or helping someone, and that’s usually difficult. We do better by making a religious offering, than having to reach out in love and touch someone we really don’t like. To let someone “off-the-hook” grates us.

Mercy is commonly defined “as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”

Wow. Isn’t this hard sometimes? We really do excel when we try to “punish” those who hurt us, we are experts at this. We ‘automatically’ lash out at those who we feel defy or somehow cross us. I find that I can get quite defensive very fast. And usually that thing is very trivial.

Jesus said to him,

“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

(Matthew 18:22.)

On our own, it seems we just can’t be as compassionate or forgiving like Jesus. We vastly prefer religious duties over forgiveness. Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 x 7, whenever a ‘sinning’ brother asks for leniency, we have to give it. If we forgive, then we’ll be forgiven!

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15

He wants to see our mercy. That outweighs any spiritual sacrifice we might make. One of Jesus’ own beatitudes hits the nail on the head,

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:7

We can’t evade this. We may try but He will keep bringing us back to it until we can pass this test, and even then we can anticipate “surprise” tests. That typically kicks us out of a false sense of maturity, and our ‘spiritual’ arrival.

We think we’ve got mercy down pat, and yet He wants to take it deeper still. Mercy for us will always be a spiritual action to a physical situation. And He brings these situations to us, to see what we do, and to reveal what is truly in our hearts at the time.

Sacrifice was a critical definition in the Pharisee’s dictionary, and Jesus more or less destroyed that entire religious concept. Sacrificing without real love, can never be part of a believer’s vocabulary. Jesus wants every disciple to show an outrageous mercy to everyone they meet.

The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy.

-Warren Wiersbe

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